Today: April 14, 2024
Today: April 14, 2024

Thousands of Korean doctors face license suspensions as Seoul moves to prosecute strike leaders

Share This
LA Post: Thousands of Korean doctors face license suspensions as Seoul moves to prosecute strike leaders
March 04, 2024

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Thousands of striking junior doctors in South Korea faced proceedings to suspend their medical licenses Tuesday, as authorities are pushing for police investigations targeting leaders of the walkouts that have disrupted hospital operations.

Nearly 9,000 of South Korea’s 13,000 medical interns and residents have been refusing to work for the last two weeks to protest a government plan to enroll thousands more students in the country’s medical schools in coming years. The government ordered them to return to work by Feb. 29, citing a threat to public health, but most have defied threats of license suspensions and prosecutions.

“For those who lead the walkouts, we are thinking we’ll file complaints with police,” Vice Health Minister Park Min-soo told a briefing. “But I tell you that we haven’t determined exactly when we would do so and against whom.”

On Monday, the Health Ministry sent officials to hospitals to confirm the absences of the striking doctors to begin administrative steps to suspend their licenses. So far, the government has formally confirmed the absences of more than 7,000 strikers, and on Tuesday, officials were to continue on-site inspections of hospitals and begin sending notices to some strikers about license suspension proceedings, Park said.

Park said the striking doctors' licenses would be suspended for at least three months, and doctors are to be given opportunities to respond before suspensions take effect.

“The trainee doctors have left their patients defenseless. They’ve even left emergency rooms and intensive care units,” Park said. “We can’t tolerate these irresponsible acts. They have betrayed their professional and ethical responsibilities and neglected their legal duties.”

Under South Korea's medical law, doctors who defy orders to resume work can be punished with three years in prison or a 30 million won (roughly $22,500) fine, as well as a up to one-year suspension of their medical licenses. Those who receive prison sentences can lose their licenses.

Observers say the government will likely end up punishing only strike leaders, not all of the thousands of striking doctors. They say it would take a few months to complete the administrative steps to suspend the licenses of all the 9,000 striking doctors.

At the heart of the dispute is a government plan to raise the country’s medical school enrollment quota by 2,000 starting next year, from the current 3,058. Officials said South Korea must add more doctors to deal with a fast-aging population. But many doctors say universities aren't ready to deal with that abrupt increase in the number of students and that the country's overall medical service would be eventually hurt.

The striking junior doctors are a small fraction of the country’s 140,000 doctors, but they account for 30-40% of the total doctors at some major hospitals, where they assist senior doctors while training.

Many senior doctors support the junior doctors but haven't joined their walkouts.

South Korean police said they are investigating five senior members of the Korea Medical Association, after the Health Ministry filed complaints against them for allegedly inciting and abetting the junior doctors’ walkouts.


Pereira retains light heavyweight title with 1st-round KO of Hill at UFC 300

Light heavyweight champion Alex Pereira knocked out top-ranked challenger Jamahal Hill at 3:14 of the first round in UFC 300

Lionel Messi scores fifth goal and has an assist in Inter Miami's 3-2 win over Sporting KC

Lionel Messi scored his fifth goal and added an assist and Luis Suárez tapped in the winner in the 71st minute as Inter Miami CF topped Sporting Kansas City 3-2 in front of the third-largest crowd in MLS history

Tiger Woods begins the weekend at the Masters still in contention for another green jacket

Tiger Woods is back at Augusta National on Saturday for the third round of the Masters

Oldest living conjoined twins, Lori and George Schappell, die at 62

The oldest living conjoined twins have died in Pennsylvania at age 62


Czech arms maker CSG chief eyes place on global stage

India's Modi vows to boost social spending, make country into a manufacturing hub ahead of election

Israel hails 'success' in blocking Iran's unprecedented attack. Biden now seeks diplomatic response

Can homeless people be fined for sleeping outside? A rural Oregon city asks the US Supreme Court

- Advertisement -
Advertisement: Limited Time Offer